Sunday, January 28, 2007

Case Study of an Earthquake in an LEDC - Bam 2003

Bam, the ancient historic city in Iran, was hit by an earthquake measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale on December 26th, 2003 resulting in the deaths of over 43,000 people and leaving over 60,000 people homeless. Many of the mud-brick buildings in Bam collapsed resulting in the high loss of life. The mud-brick disintegrates easily into rubble, making rescue difficult and hopes of survival low. The survivors had not only lost friends and family, but their homes and everything else they had. Many were left destitute on the streets, some forced to spend the cold nights wrapped in blankets; whilst some were given tents, others made use of any shelter they could find. 90% of the buildings in the ancient citadel was completed destroyed (photo shows view over the city prior to the quake.

After the quake there was criticism of the coordination of relief efforts by the government and of the lack of preventative measures. The Iranian press spoke out about the controversy surrounding this and the lack of a national plan to make buildings quake proof. Read more about this in this excellent article from the BBC. One of the big criticisms by the domestic press and independent organisations at the time was over the sub-standard housing (with many people dying in collapsed buildings) calling into question the role of the Minister for Housing.

Following the quake in Bam, 'tented cities' were constructed on the outskirts of the city by relief workers to try and house the many homeless. Many survivors were however reluctant initially to leave the sites of their destroyed homes with family members, friends and property still buried. As well as battling to survive in the below freezing temperatures of the Iranian winter, one of the concerns at the time was over the lack of access to decent sanitation, with many sharing outside toilets and a lack of clean water. However, ironically it is believed that the freezing temperatures may have actually helped to reduce the incidence of water bourne disease expected. With large numbers of volunteers coming in from all over Iran after the quake, the main plea for help after the earthquake was for medicine and equipment to help the tens of thousands injured in the quake.

You need to be aware of the reasons for differences in earthquake impact between countries at idfferent levels of development and you need to be prepared in an exam to discuss the differences with examples. So why was the death toll of the Bam earthquake so high? See this excellent articles from the Guardian "Dangerous buildings, lax rules: why Bam death toll was so high" and "Why did so many have to die in Bam?"

Here is a summary of some of the reasons for the high death toll (see article and links below for further detail)

  • - poor construction of buildings
  • - lack of earthquake proof buildings
  • - buildings made of mud-brick (collapse easily into rubble)
  • - lack of enforcement of building codes / regulations
  • - lack of research into techniques to protect the buildings from earthquakes
  • - population boom and competition for houses (resulted in rapid building of sub-standard housing)
  • - lack of national plan for the event of a disaster
  • - extreme cold temperatures made conditions for survivors difficult

To find out more about the quake, including the effects and considerations as to why the effects may have been so severe try exploring some of the following links and news stories:

- Twin Earthquakes - comparing the California and Bam earthquakes of 2003
- Why did the Bam Earthquake Happen (some excellent links thanks to Noel Jenkins of Court Fields School)
- Preliminary report on the Bam Earthquake - Iran
- Bam: Iran's Ancient City (includes photographs and further information)
- Lessons learnt on the national and international response to the Bam earthquake
- Iran Earthquake - Preliminary Reconnaissance (Using Remotely Sensed Data the Views (Visualising the impacts of earthquakes with satellite images) system) - some amazing before and after images here). and also a very detailed report here ICG Report - Bam Earthquake - December 2003

News Stories from the time (BBC News)

The Earthquake: Causes / Effects / Responses:

Bam: Jewel of Iranian Heritage

Tending to Iran's shattered City
Iran battles to cope with disaster
Concealed fault caused Bam quake
Starting from scratch in Bam
Iran lowers Bam earthquake toll
Rebuilding Bam 'could cost $1bn'
Iran considers moving capital
Bam: a year after the earthquake (includes video clips)
Iran quake survivors battle cold

Rescue Missions / Helping the people of Bam:
Helping the people of Bam (work of aid / relief workers to help survivors)
Devon rescue team on Quake Mission
Helping the people of Bam
Woman helps reunite quake survivors (story of a red cross worker)
Iran Earthquake - How to help (what was needed in the immediate aftermath - who helped?)
Earthquake Rescue (audio tale of Phil Haigh who has been working in Disaster Relief since 1968)
Response to the Earthquake / Controversy over lack of Preparedness:
The politics of earthquakes
Iran press lambasts quake efforts
Tough questions over Iran quake
Press tackles Iran over quake
Earthquake angers Iran media
Survivors recall Iran quake loss

In Pictures: Bam before and after
In Pictures: Symbols of Hope
Your Pictures: Bam after the earthquake

Original source of photo:

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